New Army Futures Command success hinges on relationship building, says McCarthy

By David Vergun, Army News ServiceOctober 8, 2019

Under Secretary McCarthy
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

WASHINGTON -- A successful Futures Command very much depends on bringing in the right people, and then cementing personal relationships between them, said Under Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy.

If they succeed, modernization succeeds, and if modernization succeeds, so does the Army and the national security of the United States, he said.

McCarthy addressed Army modernization at the Brookings Institute, Feb. 8. Michael O'Hanlon, a senior fellow and director of foreign policy research at Brookings, moderated the discussion.

Futures Command will work to advance the Army's six modernization priorities, he said: long-range precision fires, a next-generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift platforms, a mobile and expeditionary Army network, air and missile defense capabilities, and Soldier lethality.

Asked which of those six priorities is the top priority, McCarthy said they could not be ranked-ordered most to least important because "we fight as a formation. Each affects the others."

That gets back to people making it all work, he continued.

The eight cross-functional teams in the command will be composed of people with operational experience as well as technical expertise, he said. Each of those teams should have situational awareness of what the other teams are doing, because the work of one team can impact what the others are doing. Having those close working relationships is key to that "horizontal integration," he said.

As for modernization funding priorities within the six priorities, McCarthy said a lot of that will depend on the threat assessment, as well as on science and research developments. He compared it to having six control knobs that he and the vice chief of staff, who is co-leading the oversight of the command, will have to adjust from time to time.

A control knob will be turned up when a system is determined to give the advantage to the Soldier to win in combat. To do otherwise, he said, is just a waste of money.

Personal relationships are not only important within and between the CFTs, he said. They are also important in team members reaching out to industry, other service branches and academia, to inform research and requirements.

He provided a related anecdote about establishing personal relationships outside of the military.

In November, the under secretary said he was in Chicago, meeting with a group of business and engineering entrepreneurs.

He and his staff arrived in dress blues, he said. The entrepreneurs were wearing hoodies and khakis. "We've got to embrace their culture."

A few of those engineers are being interviewed for positions in Futures Command to provide oversight to such things as common architecture and standards, he said, adding that he couldn't tell them where they'd have to locate if chosen because the headquarters of the command is still undecided.

Besides personal relationships, culture matters as well, he said. The new command will not tolerate a zero-defects mentality.

"But if you fail, we'd like you to fail early and fail cheap," he said, noting that progress and success often builds on failure.

In conclusion, McCarthy said three of the main reasons Futures Command is being stood up is to reduce the layers of bureaucracy that currently exist, to get capability into the hands of Soldiers more quickly, and to increase accountability for programs.

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